Mahamat – Saleh Haroum is the first filmmaker from Chad, a backward Central African country located between Libya in the north, Sudan in the west and Niger and Nigeria in the east. Back in the 1980s, while the civil war was raging there, Haroum settled in France, where he had previously graduated from the Film Academy, but the plot of all the films he made takes place in Chad. An exception to Nike is “Lingui, The Sacred Bonds”, a shocking and authentic drama that was his third film premiered in Cannes, where he won the Jury Prize ten years ago.
It is a film with a strong feminist flair and a strong cry against the primitive, patriarchal and dumb, religion-infested society that is obviously still the society in his country. When I think about abortion in movies, my first association is the shocking and creepy Mungiu masterpiece “4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days”, and it seems that the situation in today’s Chad is even worse than in communist Romania. So in one of the poorest and poorest suburbs of the capital N’Djamena, 30-year-old Amina lives alone with her 15-year-old daughter Maria.
Right from the start Maria behaves kind of weird, hiding something from her mom, and we soon realize she was kicked out of school because she got pregnant. Amina is very familiar with this situation because the same thing happened to her. When she was 15, some dildo snorted her and just went on, and it seems the same could happen to her daughter. Amina knows what she went through and she knows what awaits Maria in life if she goes her way. Not only is it extremely difficult to raise a child as a teenager in such circumstances, but she knows she will be completely despised by society and completely marginalized. Maria does not want a child either, she would get rid of it by abortion, but this is something that in Chad is not only condemned by religion or Islam, but also by laws prohibiting abortion and the doctor who performs the procedure faces up to 15 years in prison.
And when abortion is banned legally, of course there are various channels for illegal clinics, various doctors, quasi-doctors and super-doctors who charge dearly for their butchery skills, so Amina was told she had to raise a million francs (the Central African franc is the valid currency in six countries. Central Africa: Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Congo). One of the ways she could get that money is a grandfather from the neighborhood who is openly courting her, and when they are brought to the brink, these two women will decide to take their destiny into their own hands and take care of themselves as they know how. Haroun made a powerful and striking film, a touching and moving drama that stands out with great photography, authenticity, realism, but also energy and a desire that some things have to change.
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